I have something to confess. While I have been a big fan of lentils for years, I only just realized yesterday that I’ve been missing out on some truly great culinary opportunities with these little nutritional powerhouses. Like many people, I’ve long been adding lentils to soups, stews and sauces, feeling good about feeding my meat-loving family some seriously tasty, healthy vegetarian dishes. As part of a great new national campaign to promote one of Canada’s most important crops, I learned a whole lot about the versatility of lentils yesterday. The campaign is the clever and delicious FundeLentil Tour, organized by Canadian Lentils. I can’t wait to share news of the fabulous FundeLentil contest, but first, a few facts:
- Canada is the world’s largest producer of lentils
- 95% of Canada’s lentils are grown in Saskatchewan
- There are over 5000 lentil farmers in Canada
- Canadian farmers planted over 3 million acres of lentils last year, yielding 1.84 million tons of lentils
- Canada is the world’s largest exporter of lentils.
So now it’s time for some lentil love, and that’s where the FundeLentil contest comes in. This month, 24 restaurants across Canada are showcasing lentils in amazingly delicious and innovative ways on their menus. Participating cities include Vancouver, Calgary, Halifax, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg and Saskatoon; if you’re ready to drool, check out each restaurant’s chef describing their dish. While you don’t have to taste the dishes to vote, your tastebuds will be very happy if you do! You can vote once per day until the contest closes on June 30th. The prize – a trip for two to any of the participating cities – is pretty enticing, don’t you think?
One of the key players in this delicious contest is well-known Canadian food advocate Anita Stewart, who is also the founder of Food Day Canada. As she explained during our lunch tour, she helped curate the list of participating restaurants, selected not only to represent a variety of culinary genres but also in recognition of their consistent participation in Food Day Canada and their commitment to showcasing the foods of their particular regions.
Here in Ottawa, the four participating restaurants are Atelier, the Wellington Gastropub, Absinthe Café and Murray Street Kitchen ǀ Wine ǀ Charcuterie. Having sampled all four dishes yesterday, I have to confess I’d be hard pressed to pick a winner.
Atelier – Red Lentil Fritter with Duck, Carrots and Beluga Lentils
The Wellington Gastropub – Stuffed and Roasted Saddle of Rabbit, Lentils Braised with Beau’s Lugtread, Pickled Carrot and Mustard Sauce
Absinthe – Moroccan Lentil Harira with a Bacon-wrapped Quail Stuffed with Dried Fruits and Pistachios
Murray Street – Lentil Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
I am feeling more than a little inspired after yesterday’s FundeLentils Tour in Ottawa and can’t wait to get creative with lentils in my own kitchen. In the meantime, you can click the links below to check out a few of the tasty lentil dishes my family currently enjoys:
Disclaimer: On the Ottawa leg of the FundeLentils tour, I was a grateful guest of the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers/Canadian Lentils, however all opinions expressed are my own.